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Brown Hill Pot - 20th Feb 2010

Saturday February 20th 2010

Members present: Chad B,  George Bunyan,  Marcus Roby

Report by Chad B

The Brown Hill Massive!

An extremely demanding trip, which was well rewarded towards the end with a magnificent 60 m pitch and a fine stream passage ending at the frothy sump.

Quite an easy cave to find, parking by Yordas wood, over the style, up the hill turn right at the wall, go through the gap and walk along the next wall, where you turn left, Floyds entrance is located in a shakehole 20 m from the wall marked by an oil drum.

The 3 m entrance climb is down a rusty old oil drum, there is a hand line attached to a mouldy old piece of wood (not to be relied on!) but wedging in is fine. Immediately below this there is an awkward bend along the passage with plenty of ice formations. This is followed by some downstream crawling which reaches a series of S bends. This is the point where Blakey bailed on us (hence, undeserving of being on the trip list! :-P). Having losing the smallest member of the team I was starting to get worried that we were actually going to get down this cave. Anyway I crawled along to the right hand bend, realised that I was facing the wrong was, had to shuffle back, turn around and took my SRT kit off (which I told everyone else to do). The second attempt was far more successful, it was necessary for the tacklesacks to be unjammed by the following person. Immediately following the right hind bend is an upward thrutch, I recall Marcus having to take his helmet off to do this. Following this was a narrow rift before opening up slightly allowing SRT kit to go back on. Meanwhile, George had to make several attempts before being able to pass the right hand bend, thankfully he managed it.

Onto to the first pitch, which involved a very narrow traverse over the stream way, this was a nightmare with the combination of tacklesacks and gravity. The top of the first pitch was very awkward to rig, an extremely narrow pitch head descends down to a rebelay. Thankfully for the first time on the trip a roomy chamber was at the bottom of the pitch, which leads on directly to the Mon Petit pitch. I changed the rigging off the floor spike several times and it still wasn’t right, George followed and changed the deviation off the tat, which appeared to reduce the rope rub.

Here a flat out crawl followed passing Galerie pas mur – a water fall from a high aven which provided us with a point to catch our breaths. Beyond this we tried to make sure that we followed the traverse for 7 m so we descended to stream level at the right point. After a little bit of indecision we were convinced that we were at the 3 m climb down. I looked over a rather intimidating drop. This was quite narrow at the top so I carefully wedged my way down. I think George found it quite interesting by coming down facing the wall. The next section of the passage was fairly straight forward except for getting past the series of jammed blocks.

We then reached what the guide described as ‘steep slop up to roof level’. From here there are three routes to the Puits Ian Pant pitch. We took the long narrow traverse directly ahead of us; again another part of the cave which on its own is difficult, but with tacklesacks made it a nightmare. I was quite glad when it opened up slightly and I could see the p-hangers. At this point George was worried that he would be too tired to be able to get out again, so he decided to not go any further and have a rest while Marcus and I carried on. In truth, the rest of the cave is the easiest and best part.

The Puits Ian Plant pitch is a brilliant airy 60 m pitch with some fine flowstones on the walls, which is broken by a ledge traverse about 40 m down, beyond the ledge is a spout water fall. I decided that it wasn’t flowing enough to warrant the deviation. It was actually quite nice to be cooled down by the spray. At the bottom I was feeling fairly happy as that really is a worthwhile pitch.

From here, a very nice stream passage follows; the sharpness of the wall suggests that there is not much traffic that goes down this section. There is a brief crawl past Marmite passage, another interesting water cascade. The last pitch is a simple traverse over a rock bridge to a Y-hang. At the bottom of this was a narrow rift with ending in a frothy sump. There were some diving canisters at the bottom, not sure I’d fancy bringing those down this cave.

Having bottomed the cave I was feeling pretty good, knowing that we had to get out through all the horrible tight stuff, I decided that it would be best to pace myself up the large pitch. Marcus de-rigged with out any problems. Back at the top of the Ian Plant we found a refreshed George. In places getting out with was extremely tiring. Getting off the first pitch head would be difficult in its own right, but with a tacklesack getting wedged made it more so. Beyond this the pace was noticeable slow, with SRT kits off we were all a bit surprised how much easier it was to get back out though the tight section and right hand bend.

It was a relief to smell the fresh air as I think we were all pretty shattered. Ended up to be quite a long trip at what I think was 8.5 hours underground. We got back to the car to find it frozen over with Blakey under his orange survival bag!

Great trip, certainly need to be up for this one and in general give each other encouragement, but with the magnificent pitch and stream passage at the bottom it was well worth it. I should be pointed out that the cave has in-situ ropes, but I don’t think that I’d fancy using any of it!